- Bicycle Helmet Laws
- It’s safer to wear a wig
- Helmets a turn-off for cyclists
- The Hypocrisy of Cycle Helmet Laws
- BMA Rejects Helmet Compulsion
- Canada: Helmet Law For Alberta? Maybe not…
- Head injuries and bicycle helmet laws
- Wikipedia on bicycle helmets
- Chris Boardman on Helmets
- An example of how helmets protect cyclists
- Cyclist pepper-sprayed for not wearing helmet
Bicycle Helmet Laws
Before criticizing helmet legislation, I would like to emphasize an important point. Helmets can save you from getting your brains scrambled, and I mostly recommend you wear one. Having written off three Giro helmets, it’s fairly safe to say I would be something of a cabbage without helmets (some people say I’m a cabbage anyway).
Another point I would like to make, is what ever your opinion is on helmet laws, it’s not worth stressing about – really it’s not that important, go and enjoy riding your bike. I only wrote this stuff to help people see that like many issues, it’s not really all black and white.
But helmet laws are not helmets – they are laws, and like many laws, there is an element of bullshit involved. While wearing a helmet is usually a good idea, in the bigger picture of social health on a whole, the statistics just don’t stack up. Why? Because compulsory helmets actually do significantly reduce the number of people using bikes for casual transport, sometimes by up to 40%.
As casual use is potentially the biggest use of bikes, and this type of use has such a positive effect on health of inactive people, statistically it overrides the negative health effects of turning a few of them into cabbages. (e.g. Say 10 avoid heart attacks for each one that gets munted by a car). Statistics won’t help you once you are a cabbage, but then neither will they help you after a heart attack. There are two sides to most arguments….
Some of the strongest supporters of helmet legislation are in fact mountain bikers, but what a lot of them seem to miss is that no one is saying “don’t wear a helmet”, and that wearing a helmet while mountain biking off road is not compulsory anyway. (Road rules only apply to roads). What we are discussing here is a social policy, aimed mainly at casual cyclist, rather than cycle enthusiasts, and in terms of “the greater good” this law doesn’t stack up.
Many people argue that as tax payers they should be protected from funding the stupidity of others. And that’s reasonable, but I would say that legislating against a healthy recreational activity, potentially dangerous only to ones own health, is completely out of line in a country where smoking, overeating, drinking alcohol, and playing rugby (with or without a helmet), are all perfectly legal.
Does anybody seriously think that the long term dangers or social costs of riding without a helmet are greater than that of smoking cigarettes? The costs to tax payers from illnesses caused by the consumption of soft drinks such as those made by Coca Cola, are many thousands of times greater than costs created by cycling head injuries. And illnesses caused by Aspartame and Nutrasweet consumption are causing massive expenses to tax payers. But no-one has banned diet coke…
Driving a car without a helmet carries similar risks to riding a bike without one, (yes that’s per hour, not per kilometer) and the people who support bike helmet laws do not use helmets when they drive. Having had head injuries in a car without a helmet and on a bike with one, all I can say for sure is that it hurts either way.
There is also a key issue that is seldom discussed by either pro-helmet or anti-helmet people – possibly because both sides think it’s too dumb to get into. And that is hair – helmets mess it up – now that’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. And because a lot of people hate having helmet hair, they just don’t ride a bike at all. Yes, that’s the main reason helmet laws reduce the amount of people using bikes for transport. And however dumb you think all that vanity is, it makes no difference – because that really is what happens.
As with most things, what we really need is a positive attitude to our own health and safety, and enough information to decide what risks we are willing to take. Not another law to make up for a lack of judgment.
Now here’s a few more opinions on helmet laws.
It’s safer to wear a wig
Cyclists may be safer wearing a long-haired wig than a helmet, research suggests.
In England, a Bath University study found drivers gave a wider berth to cyclists with long hair than those wearing helmets.
The study, by psychologist Dr Ian Walker, also found bare-headed cyclists were given more room than those wearing helmets.
Walker used a bicycle fitted with a computer and an ultrasonic distance sensor to record data from more than 2500 overtaking motorists. He wore a helmet half the time.
During his research, he was struck by a bus and a truck – both times while wearing a helmet.
In research to be published in the Accident Analysis and Prevention journal, Walker found drivers, on average, passed 1.33m from his bicycle. However, when he wore a long-haired wig – to give the impression he was female – overtaking drivers gave him an extra 14cm. By contrast, when he was wearing a helmet, they passed 8.5cm closer. Larger vehicles also narrowed the gap, with trucks passing 19cm closer than cars and buses, 23cm closer.
He wanted to do more research to understand why drivers appeared to give female cyclists such a wide berth. It was possible they were seen as less predictable than male riders because they were not seen on the road as often as male cyclists.
He suggested drivers saw cyclists with helmets as more serious, experienced and predictable than those without, and therefore needing less space when overtaking.
Helmets a turn-off for cyclists
They are designed to prevent serious head injuries, but it seems helmets are a turn-off for would-be cyclists worried about messing up their hair.
A Massey University study has found the law requiring cyclists to wear helmets acts as a deterrent for some potential pedal-pushers. Women and young people in particular said they avoided cycling because of the effect on their hair-styles.
“What this research suggests is that if the Government wants to achieve their policy of having more people cycling as a mode of transport, they may want to review the current law on cycle helmets,” said researcher Kane Hopkins, of Massey’s communication and journalism department. The environmental benefits of having more people cycling might be greater than the safety benefits provided by helmets, he said.
The Hypocrisy of Cycle Helmet Laws
Wearing helmets in cars has been proved more effective in preventing serious injury than cycle helmets, but promoting car helmets is likely to meet heavy opposition.
Recent media reports on helmet-wearing for motor vehicle occupants brings to the public attention an issue that many would rather not hear about.
The media articles originated from a report by the Federal Office of Road Safety, the Australian counterpart of New Zealand’s Land Transport Safety Authority, saying there would be huge savings if motor vehicle occupants wore helmets.
New Zealanders may be forgiven for thinking the FORS report contained new information, when in fact the benefits of wearing helmets in cars have been known for a long time. The advantage of helmets over such things as airbags is also old information. And there are real concerns over the negative aspects of airbags,such as the injuries they can cause.
Transport Minister Maurice Williamson was quick to respond to the recent reports, saying: “The Government, not the LTSA, makes road transport policy. The issue of safety helmets for drivers is not a goer.”
Why such a quick and decisive put-down of the FORS report? Why have we not heard more about helmets for motor vehicle occupants, while helmets for cyclists have been promoted and made law, especially when scientifically helmets for motorists make more sense than cycle helmets? The answer lies in politics. FORS has broken ranks with the rest of the helmet promoting community and in doing so has endangered a situation others have taken years to produce. When promoting helmets you must never mention motor vehicles.
Those promoting helmets have had only a few successes worldwide. In Sweden they promoted cycle (and sport) helmets so successfully that children wore them even when not cycling.
This ended up causing problems, and the Swedes reported deaths caused by helmets getting stuck in trees, railings, etc, and the straps strangling children. The response was to design a new buckle that comes undone on impact… which they admit makes the helmet even more useless for road use.
In Japan one city allowed schools to require children walking to school to wear helmets. This proved as unsuccessful at reducing injuries as cycle helmets.
Two countries were persuaded to pass national laws requiring cyclists to wear helmets, even though by the time this happened, the problems were well known. Today only New Zealand still has a national law.
The scientific verdict on the efficacy of helmets for such activities as cycling is at best undecided, although the evidence tends toward not supporting their compulsory use. Indeed, research published in Australia and New Zealand has shown that compulsory helmet legislation is usually less than successful and can have negative effects.
When the New Zealand research was presented at an international safety conference in Australia, its authors commented that it had been sent back “two or three times” by the LTSA to be checked, as the results were apparently not politically acceptable. Since then, it has not been widely publicised here but is well known abroad.
It has been cited recently as showing the failure of cycle helmet legislation to reduce deaths and serious head injuries in a coroner’s investigation of 38 cycling deaths in 11 years in Toronto.
Some of the key research that helmet promoters rely on to support their case has also been shown by an Australian researcher to be fundamentally flawed – apparently the work also “proves” that helmets (worn on the head) reduce knee injuries!
Helmet promoters also face the problem that helmets make more sense for motorists than cyclists.
The head injury risk per hour is about the same for motoring and cycling; there are many more driving hours than cycling ones; driving offers no health benefits, unlike cycling; on average health care costs for victims of motor vehicle accidents are higher than those for cycle accident victims.
As the response of the AA shows, promoting helmets for motorists would meet heavy opposition from the motoring lobby. But that same lobby will back helmets for other activities, in particular the potential victims of motorists.
Why does all this matter? Some of course will find that requiring cyclists, who are invariably the victims, to wear helmets but not motorists, who would benefit more and who cause the injuries to cyclists, is not a little hypocritical.
In Australia one researcher has stated that despite all the efforts put into helmet wearing, a Danish cyclist without a helmet is still safer than an Australian one with a helmet.
This, it is claimed, is a common pattern. Where helmets have been rejected but other measures adopted, cyclists are safer than where “cycle safety measures” and “promoting helmet wearing” have become synonymous, as in New Zealand and to a lesser extent in Australia.
More than a decade after our “successful” cycle helmet legislation, New Zealand remains the only country with such a law for all its citizens. Meanwhile, other governments have used the New Zealand experience as part of the reason not to introduce their own cycle helmet legislation. And it is not only governments: when helmet promoters tried to introduce a law in Quebec, both police and medical professionals objected.
The cycle helmet law has failed to provide the benefits claimed; non-helmet-based cycle safety programs have been more successful; overseas governments have rejected cycle helmet legislation, based partly on our failure; and helmets make at least as much sense for motorists.
While helmets look OK with riding gear, often they just don’t seem to fit in with a more casual dress sense….
BMA Rejects Helmet Compulsion
The British Medical Association (BMA) rejected the idea that wearing cycle helmets should be compulsory, but called for an active campaign to encourage their use.
The report from the BMA reaffirmed its long-held view that compulsion could discourage cycling, which would have a negative overall effect on public health. It has always maintained that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks.
The report concluded that helmets are only one part of a bigger road safety picture. It says that dedicated cycle paths, road traffic reduction and traffic calming measures, plus driver training and cycle proficiency training, are equally important.
It compares Britain with other countries such as Holland, where helmet usage is minimal but where cyclists are segregated from fast-moving and dense motor traffic. Cyclists and pedestrians in Holland make up 30 per cent of road deaths, compared with 45 per cent in the UK.
In Australia, helmet wearing is compulsory, and although deaths and injuries fell sharply when compulsion was introduced, the numbers of people cycling also fell by 40 per cent. Only 18 per cent of cyclists currently wear helmets in the United Kingdom.
Doctor Vivienne Nathanson, BMA Head of Health Policy and Research, says: “In this country, I would like to see every cyclist, and particularly every child cyclist, wearing a good quality helmet but I also want to see them cycling in a much safer environment with dedicated cycle paths and lower traffic speeds.”
The Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) backs the BMA’s report. Stuart Reid, campaigns manager of the CTC, says: “The [BMA’sl conclusion has been reached based on evidence, not the unsubstantiated emotive arguments that this debate has been susceptible to. The BMA’s findings support the CTC position. We feel that legislating for helmets would be misguided and damaging. Statistics state that 80 per cent of all head injuries caused by road traffic accidents are sustained by car occupants and pedestrians.”
Canada: Helmet Law For Alberta? Maybe not…
Cyclists in Alberta, led by the Alberta Bicycle Association, made a call for help to fight a proposal by a small group of “Helmetists” to include cycle helmet legislation in an Alberta Government road bill.
This isn’t the first proposal to introduce a cycle helmet law in Canada and two provinces, British Columbia and Nova Scotia have full laws, while Ontario – after a massive fight with cycle advocates, both local and from around the world – settled on a compromise child-only law which is largely ignored (as it was expected to be). In Quebec cycle advocates were joined by such groups as doctors and the police in opposing legislation. Prince Edward Island successfully fought off a proposal as well, led on the ground largely by single cyclist backed by a worldwide network of cycle advocates connected via the Internet. Alberta, known as a “conservative” state which typically doesn’t have sympathy with such laws, thought it was free from the Helmetist movement, but when it came quickly turned to the same Internet for assistance.
Ironically much of the anti-law argument is based on research from countries like Australia and New Zealand – the first two countries in the world to introduce comprehensive cycle helmet legislation, though today only New Zealand retains its comprehensive law. The pro-law arguments generally ignore these countries and turn to small scale trials in various parts of the world.
Thrown into the debate by the cycle advocates has been the re-emergence of the “helmets in cars” argument – it is hard they suggest, for Helmetists to argue for helmet wearing by cyclists while refusing to wear them themselves in their own cars – and the acknowledgement of the first US child to be killed by a helmet – joining others that have been acknowledged in Canada and Sweden. The Helmetists, unsurprisingly, dismiss these as irrelevances or aberrations, and so the argument goes on…
But people need not be so self conscious about wearing a helmet – worn with a suit a helmet can look good if the suit is stylish and well fitted.
Head injuries and bicycle helmet laws
The first year of the mandatory bicycle helmet laws in Australia saw increased helmet wearing from 31% to 75% of cyclists in Victoria and from 31% of children and 26% of adults in New South Wales (NSW) to 76% and 85%.
However, the two major surveys using matched before and after samples in Melbourne (Finch et al. 1993; Report No. 45, Monash Univ. Accident Research Centre) and throughout NSW (Smith and Milthorpe 1993; Roads and Traffic Authority) observed reductions in numbers of child cyclists 15 and 2.2 times greater than the increase in numbers of children wearing helmets. This suggests the greatest effect of the helmet law was not to encourage cyclists to wear helmets, but to discourage cycling.
In contrast, despite increases to at least 75% helmet wearing, the proportion of head injuries in cyclists admitted or treated at hospital declined by an average of only 13%. The percentage of cyclists with head injuries after collisions with motor vehicles in Victoria declined by more, but the proportion of head injured pedestrians also declined; the two followed a very similar trend. These trends may have been caused by major road safety initiatives introduced at the same time as the helmet law and directed at both speeding and drink-driving. The initiatives seem to have been remarkably effective in reducing road trauma for all road users, perhaps affecting the proportions of victims suffering head injuries as well as total injuries.
The benefits of cycling, even without a helmet, have been estimated to outweigh the hazards by a factor of 20 to 1 (Hillman 1993. Cycle helmets-the case for and against. Policy Studies Institute, London). Consequently, a helmet law, whose most notable effect was to reduce cycling, may have generated a net loss of health benefits to the nation. Despite the risk of dying from head injury per hour being similar for unhelmeted cyclists and motor vehicle occupants, cyclists alone have been required to wear head protection. Helmets for motor vehicle occupants are now being marketed and a mandatory helmet law for these road users has the potential to save 17 times as many people from death by head injury as a helmet law for cyclists without the adverse effects of discouraging a healthy and pollution free mode of transport.
Remember anyone can look good in a helmet – don’t let a misguided sense of fashion put you off protecting your head…
Evidence for the efficacy of helmets in preventing serious injury is contradictory and inconclusive.
In general, analyses of the relative merits of different bike safety interventions put helmets low down, because no helmet will reduce the probability of crashing (and there is some evidence that helmets may increase this likelihood).
Proactive measures including bike maintenance and riding skills are far more important. Although the link is not causal, it is observed that the countries with the best cycle safety records (Denmark and the Netherlands) have among the lowest levels of helmet use. Their bicycle safety record is generally attributed to public awareness and understanding of cyclists, education, and to some extent separation from motor traffic.
Population studies compare changes in helmet use and injury rates in a single population over time, most notably where helmet laws have resulted in large changes in a short time. A review of jurisdictions where helmet use increased by 40% or more following compulsion showed no measurable change to the proportion of head injuries among injured cyclists.
The definition of injury is also open to debate, and injury figures are acknowledged to be inaccurate. Research by TRL and others shows that reporting of injuries is related to severity: fatal injuries are almost always reported, in the developed world, but 90% or more of lesser injuries go unreported.
Recent research on traumatic brain injury adds further confusion, suggesting that the major causes of permanent intellectual disablement and death may well be torsional forces leading to diffuse axonal injury (DAI), a form of injury which helmets cannot mitigate. Helmets may increase the torsional forces by increasing the distance from the extremities of the helmet to the centre of the spine, compared to the distance without a helmet.
There is a long-running argument over the use, promotion, and compulsion of cycle helmets. Most heated controversy surrounds laws making helmet use compulsory, particularly regarding the substantial disparity between claimed injury savings in small-scale prospective studies, and later, more comprehensive studies, particularly from jurisdictions which have used compulsion to substantially raise helmet use over a very short period. Helmet use in New Zealand, for example, rose from 43% to over 95% in under three years, with no measurable change in head injury rates.
Many of the most vocal proponents of helmets are not themselves cyclists.
Overall, according to CTC, the UK’s national cyclists organisation, “the evidence currently available is complex and full of contradictions, providing at least as much support for those who are sceptical as for those who swear by them.”
Mandatory bicycle helmet laws have been linked to a reduction in the number of cyclists. For example, when mandatory bicycle helmet laws were enacted in Australia, slightly more than one third of bare-headed cyclists ceased to ride their bicycles frequently. The reduction in the number of cyclists is likely to have a greater negative impact on the health of a population, than would have resulted from any increase in injury. The long term health benefits of bicycle use are manifold and extensively documented, and so any reduction in bicycle activity will likely have a negative impact on the overall health of a population.
As well as being an extra expense, cycle helmets make cycling less convenient; they are bulky and often cannot be stored securely with bikes. They are incompatible with some hairstyles, forcing bicycle users to recreate their hairstyle after each journey.
Cycle helmet promotion or high levels of use may deter cycling by reinforcing the misconception that bicycling is more dangerous than traveling by passenger car.
All of these factors can lead to an increased risk for those cyclists remaining on the road, due to a “safety in numbers” effect. According to one study, the probability of an individual cyclist being struck by a motorist declines with the 0.6 power of the number of cyclists on the road. This means that if the number of cyclists on the road doubles, then the average individual cyclist can ride for an additional 50% of the time without increasing his probability of being struck. It is thought that the increased frequency of motorist-cyclist interaction creates more aware motorists.
Many believe that a helmet can save a cyclist’s life, an idea which is repeatedly asserted in debate. There is no known evidential basis for this claim and there are no known cases where mass helmet use has actually reduced the number of cyclists’ deaths or serious head injuries. Association with increased risk of death has been reported.
It is likely that helmets could prevent a significant number of minor cycling injuries but the overall safety benefits are inconclusive; this is thought to be in part due to risk compensation behaviour. A cost-benefit analysis of the New Zealand helmet law showed that the cost of helmets outweighed the savings in injuries even taking the most optimistic estimate of injuries prevented.
While a helmet may mitigate the effects of a fall or collision, other factors (such as maintenance, road conditions, and driver behaviour) are more important for reducing the chance of such accidents in the first place. In general, the value of bicycle helmets has been systematically overstated.
* Risk compensation: helmeted cyclists may ride less carefully; this is well supported by evidence for other road safety interventions such as seat belts and antilock brakes.
* Recent evidence suggests vehicles pass helmeted cyclists with measurably less clearance (8.5 cm/3.5″) than that given to unhelmeted cyclists (out of an average total passing distance of 1.2 to 1.3 metres), indicating additional risk compensation by motorists too.
Helmet use has increased significantly in many, but not most, jurisdictions since the 1980s, primarily because of helmet promotion and compulsion laws. The following countries have mandatory helmet laws, in at least one jurisdiction, for either minors only, or for all riders: Australia, Canada, Finland, Iceland, USA, and New Zealand.
In the U.S. 21 states have mandatory helmet laws. An analysis of helmet laws in the British Medical Journal showed that these laws have failed to yield measurable reductions in head injuries. The major documented effect of helmet laws is to reduce cycle use.
Helmet promoters routinely make claims which manufacturers cannot, due to truth in advertising restrictions. Promotion campaigns are often supported and/or funded by manufacturers. Bell, one major helmet manufacturer, supports both helmet promotion and, through its Legislative Assistance Programme, laws. The major problem with helmet promotion, from the point of view of cycle activists, is that in order to present the idea of a “problem” to match the solution they present promoters tend to overstate the dangers of cycling. Cycling is, according to the evidence, no more dangerous than being a pedestrian. In fact, helmet compulsion in cars would be far more effective at reducing injuries than on bicycles.
Cycling as a dangerous activity. Ordinary cycling is not demonstrably more dangerous than walking or driving, yet no country promotes helmets for either of these modes.Cycle helmet use correlates inversely with the level of cycling in a given country.
Detailed analysis of hospital admissions data also fails to support the idea that cycling is unusually dangerous: a study in the UK found that the proportion of cyclist injuries which are head injuries is essentially the same as the proportion for pedestrians at 30.0% vs. 30.1%.
Overall, cycling is beneficial to health – the benefits outweigh the risks by up to 20:1. Critics assert that anything which jeopardises that benefit should be carefully weighed to ensure it is likely to achieve some meaningful benefit in turn. Thus far, no helmet law has been shown to do that.
Chris Boardman on Helmets
Former Tour de France star Chris Boardman, knocked unconscious in a crash while wearing a helmet in 1998, provides a personal perspective on the helmet debate.
In 1998,1 crashed out of the Tour de France white I was wearing the race leader’s yellow jersey. It was the one and only time in my life I have been knocked out and if you’ve never experienced it, well, it’s a very curious sensation. Imagine blinking and seeing something completely different when you opened your eyes – like the roof of an ambulance. Anyway, as is usually the case when someone loses consciousness, it was due to a blow to the head. In my case, the immovable object was a dry stone wall in the west of Ireland, but fortunately I was wearing a helmet,
Did it save my life? Who knows? Giro, the manufacturer, liked to believe it did, but at the very least it probably prevented a more serious head injury. So would I advocate the use of helmets in all races or, for that matter, make them compulsory for all cyclists? I think “maybe” – and “no” are the answers.
I chose to wear a helmet in virtually all the pro races I rode, when engaged in an activity involving traveling at high speeds in close proximity to other riders and often in unpredictable circumstances, it simply made sense. The arguments against enforcement are, in my opinion, pretty much mute. Heat stress is the main reason cited but there is little evidence to support this; helmets are now exceptionally well ventilated, blood flow to the head is constant whatever the climatic conditions and the helmet actually shields the head from direct sunlight,
In all honesty, the anti-compulsory arguments are a front for the real reasons – tradition and vanity. Helmets can’t be made to look good and remain effective. So why don’t I come straight out and get behind the push for their mandatory use? Because looking at the bigger picture, I am a great believer in common sense – despite what seems to be a global trend to outlaw it.
Deaths from non-helmet use, even in the high-risk confines of professional bike racing, must be statistically less common than deaths from crossing the road. I can already hear your letters in response: “If compulsory use prevents just one death it will have been worth it…”
But that same person might be a stone overweight and at risk from heart disease, or regularly change the radio channel while driving the car. Should we ban fast food? Do we outlaw radio use in the car? Even though we know the odds are that there will be road deaths, this year whilst someone swaps Eminem for U2, we choose not to. And as for obesity and heart disease… well, the statistics are clear.
In the early days of my pro career, the UCI tried to make helmet use for professionals compulsory, there was a riders’ strike and the decision was reversed. I, for one, would have been perfectly happy if their use had been made mandatory, but at the same time I understood that the other riders wanted the right to choose. It is simply a question of where you draw your own personal line.
In recent years, I have been asked to participate in many a well-meaning helmet campaign aimed at the general cycling market – and I’ve declined. Those involved had invariably missed the real issue; why do we need to wear helmets these days? It is treating a symptom instead of addressing the cause. Local governments generally get behind these schemes because getting someone to wear a helmet is easier than trying to educate car users, or to change transport policy.
My objective here is to get people to consider the real issues in a larger context. Should Andrei Kivilev’s death (a professional rider who died of head injuries after crashing without a helmet in 2003) be considered a tragic accident or a needless waste? I think ‘Both’ is the answer. He, like the rest of us, had a choice in whether to use a helmet or not, he chose not to. But ponder this; cycling is the only sport I can think of involving this level of speed, in which helmets are not a mandatory requirement. It’s up to you to decide where to draw your line; you don’t have to wait for someone to do it for you.
Here’s a site advocating the boycotting of Bell and Giro Helmets, because of their misleading advertising campaigns. While I totally disagree with the sites aim – Bell and Giro make some of the best helmets, and if you are going to wear one, then I highly recommend those two brands. But much of the other background information on the site backs up the content here. Have a look at Bell Helmets Campaign of Terror
An example of how helmets protect cyclists
Having had cops drive up onto the footpath on two occasions and attempt to ram me off my bike with their cars, and having had one of my friends head high tackled clean off his bike on a busy street for not wearing a helmet, I can really relate to this story – give a fascist puppet an excuse, and he will behave like a fascist puppet…
Cyclist pepper-sprayed for not wearing helmet
A Nelson cyclist without a helmet who was pepper-sprayed and then rammed into a bank by a police officer in a patrol car has told a court the officer was aggressive towards him.
Senior Constable Garry Dunn, 45, of Nelson, faces two counts of assault following the incident.
Nelson Bays area commander Inspector Brian McGurk told The Nelson Mail that Dunn has been stood down from duty on full pay.
During the first day of a depositions hearing at the Nelson District Court yesterday chef Shaun Robert Ian Taylor said he was biking home along Rocks Rd when Dunn wound down his patrol car window and asked him to get off his bike, as he did not have a helmet on.
Mr Taylor said he got off his bike, crossed the road and started walking towards Tahunanui on the footpath. After a short distance he got on his bike again as he was worried he would be late for work.
He caught up with Dunn, who told him again to stop and get off his bike.
Mr Taylor said he kept biking, but crossed the road and encountered Dunn, who got out of his car and they started to argue.
“He was trying to say I was failing to stop and I was under arrest, and I argued with him and said I had to be at work.”
Mr Taylor said he knew he was in the wrong, as he didn’t have a helmet, but he wanted to get to work.
Mr Taylor said Dunn asked him if he had ever been pepper sprayed, which surprised him as he didn’t think the situation was dangerous. Dunn then sprayed him.
“It went from just talking about it, debating, to all of a sudden … it went from that to `bang’.”
After running up a driveway, Mr Taylor then ran back to his bike, and after initially riding towards Nelson crossed the road and cycled back towards Tahunanui, he said.
Mr Taylor said Dunn was in his police car across the road from the Abel Tasman memorial car park, and on seeing him approach on his bicycle did a U-turn, mounted the footpath and pushed him into a bank with his car.
Mr Taylor said his bike was wedged between the police car and the bank and was written off.
He “flew over the bonnet”, ending up beside the driver’s door, he said.